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Millennials Buy Handbags Like They’re Leasing a Car, According to New Study

New Study Explores Millennials' Handbag Purchasing Habits

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Millennials have acquired a reputation for sloth and unhealthy attachment to our childhood homes, but on the bright side, we are smart shoppers — at least when it comes to our arm candy.

A new study from the NPD Group, conducted in partnership with Stylitics, examined what the heck is going on with the handbag industry. Though the category remains extremely lucrative, in recent years labels have had to adjust their sales strategies to keep up with market trends. The result? (Semi-) affordable mini bags galore and brands’ increased online presence.

Apparently, these approaches worked, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned. In 2015, women 18 and over spent a total of $11.5 billion on handbags, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. However, most of that growth was thanks to baby boomers whose discretionary cash-lined pockets subsidize their purse rotation. On the other hand, tote expenditures among women ages 18 to 34 only inched up 2 percent, the study showed.

The discrepancy between the generations boils down to shopping habits. With less money comes greater responsibility. It costs about the same to lease a new car for six months as it does to buy a decent leather satchel — and so we treat the processes similarly. Of the millennials surveyed for the study, 41 percent said they spent over a month considering which bag to buy and 61 percent said they begin by browsing for choices online before taking the final leap. Additionally, although we’ve seen a resurgence of logoed 90s nostalgia in the apparel sector, when it comes to handbags, insignias are hardly foremost on our minds.

“The Millennial customer is shopping for handbags very differently than other generations,” explained Rohan Deuskar, CEO and co-founder of Stylitics, a fashion technology and insights company. “For example, this customer starts with specific product attributes, not brand, when looking for her next handbag, and invests more time and research in her purchase than brands and retailers realize. These findings have been eye-opening for handbag sellers and are having an immediate impact on their marketing, merchandising and product development strategies.”

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Three out of four millennials reported their top priorities when purchasing a bag had more to do with the details, quality and individuality of the product rather than its ranking as a status symbol. We’re all about discovering emerging and lesser-known labels we won’t see on the arms of the entire subway car (at least not at first — we’re looking at you, Mansur Gavriel).

“With the complex nature of the Millennial handbag purchase journey, combined with the diverse needs of selling the same handbags across a variety of generations, it becomes even more critical to ensure those selling your handbags know all the right reasons behind each generation’s choices,” explains Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “The handbag has become a signature item, and retailers need to take advantage.”

Let us hope luxury brands hear our prayers (and statistics) and continue their rebranding measures. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have important online window-shopping to attend to.